I think the phrase “all the feelings” is a bit overused these days, but it really does accurately describe my emotional state right now. I am the mother of a high school graduate, and with this new status come varying degrees of excitement, fear, and sadness.
For the reception held at school after graduation, we had to prepare a poster of photos honoring our graduate. I printed out over 200 photos and then spent a few days making the poster. As much as I dislike making posters, the process of sifting through all these photos of Carter was therapeutic. I reflected on his babyhood, when he was such a sweet chunk, to his boyhood in Kalimantan when he loved all kinds of critters, to his teenage years that have been full of fun times with friends and discovering new interests, like art and music and writing.
The graduation wasn’t as emotional as I thought it would be. I think I’m saving up for the Big Cry that is coming in a few months, when we get on a plane and return to Indonesia, and Carter stays behind in the U.S.A. I still can’t even really think about that moment without melting into a puddle of tears.
Recently I’ve been reading a book about the first missionaries to Hawaii. Some of our friends in Hawaii recommended it to me years ago after I told them I had read Michener’s Hawaii, which is loosely based on actual events. This other book, Grapes of Canaan, is based on the journals of the first missionaries who arrived in 1820, and it has been a fascinating read. I can easily identify with some of their struggles of living in a new place, of having interpersonal issues, of being worried about their kids.
The book relates how some of the missionaries were concerned about how the culture was impacting their children, particularly their teens, and an older visiting missionary advised them: “No service you might give here is the worth the ruin of your children.” I would agree with this statement. More than once I have thought, ‘are we messing up our kids for life by living here?’ Thankfully, living in Indonesia has not led to the ruin of our children, though I do think they are impacted forever for having grown up overseas. It will be interesting to see in the years to come just how that plays out in our kids' lives as they leave home and make their way in the world.